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Slot-machine opponents demand for a recount

No Casinos withdrew its lawsuit seeking a recount of the 78,000 Broward County ballots that cemented the victory of slot machine proponents on Nov. 3.

BY CHRISTINA HOAG   Miami Herald   11 December 2004

Slot-machine opponents said this week they have withdrawn their lawsuit seeking a recount of the 78,000 Broward County votes that swung the Amendment Four vote squarely to proponents.

''Our case has terrific merit but it's unlikely we'd be able to change the election outcome,'' said state Rep. Randy Johnson, chairman of the antigambling group No Casinos.

A computer glitch caused the Broward votes to remain undetected until a day after the election.

The move to cancel the lawsuit comes after No Casinos discovered another voting mishap in Pinellas County, where an employee inadvertently reversed the totals on the Amendment Four vote, giving proponents 17,000 extra votes.

Although Pinellas officials admitted the mistake, Johnson said state law dictates that vote totals cannot be changed once they are signed and submitted to the state elections board.

Even if the Pinellas votes were given back to the opponents and there was a change in the Broward tabulation, the tally still would not reverse the proponents' triumph, prompting No Casinos' decision to not pursue what would be an expensive court battle, Johnson said.

No Casinos has led the fight against Miami-Dade and Broward parimutuels' quest for permission to add Las Vegas-style slot machines to their facilities.

On Nov. 3, voters statewide narrowly authorized those counties to hold referendums on the issue.

Slot machine supporters were delighted that No Casinos had voluntarily dismissed its lawsuit.

''It was the right and honorable thing to do,'' said Jim Horne, a former state education commissioner. ``We're glad to get that behind us.''

Johnson, a Republican from Celebration, said No Casinos would now devote its efforts to ''harnessing this bad idea'' by imposing legislative restrictions on slot operation and working to defeat slots in Miami-Dade and Broward counties.

Broward County commissioners have said they may schedule the referendum as soon as March, which Johnson termed ``insanity.''

He said voters would not know details of what they will be voting on since laws governing slots would likely not be approved by then.

The Legislature must enact the legislation during its 2005 regular session, Horne said.

When Miami-Dade and Broward voters go to the polls, Horne said, governing legislation would not likely be an issue since voters will consider the big picture, which include the issue of earmarking slot-machine taxes for schools.


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